Many different percussive sounds can be used in the rhythm section of your mix, but one of the most overlooked is the shaker. Shakers come in many different varieties. They all sound different. Their name comes from the method used to create sound with them – moving them back and forth in the air rather than striking them. Basically, shaking them! Most could also be struck for a greater accent on certain beats. If mixed properly this type of percussive instrument can introduce a feeling of fullness and make your mixes sound more organic. Shakers often play with a certain pattern of rhythmic subdivision. By nature, shakers might feel too loud, dry, or get easily lost in the mix. For that reason, in the next tutorial, we will show you how to get them to sit just right.

We’re going to start by listening to a previously made sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW. It contains most of the elements of a full mix.

Enhance your shakers DAW session
~Full Mix – Without a Shaker Sequence

Let’s add a shaker sequence. We will listen to it solo and then in the context of the full mix.

Shaker sequence
~Shaker Sequence – Solo
~Full Mix – Shaker Sequence (Unprocessed)

The first thing we could do to make this shaker sequence a bit wider and more prominent is to introduce some latency between the left and right channels. We could do that with many different effects. In this case, we have chosen the PHA-979 by Voxengo. In the picture below, you will notice how much we shifted the values of the left and the right channels. Bear in mind these values are expressed in milliseconds. It’s just a small time-shift, but enough to widen the stereo image of the shaker sequence. Let’s listen to the difference.

Widen the shakers
~Shaker Sequence – Processed with PHA-979

Reverb and distortion can work great on shakers

We’ve widened the stereo image of our shaker, but there’s still more to be done with it. For example, we could add a bit of room reverb which would fit nicely, since it sounds too dry at this point. For this, we have chosen the FabFilter Pro-R. Small reverb decay and a bit of playing with reverb EQ, as you can see from the picture below, is all we need. Let’s hear the difference.

Reverb and EQ
~Shaker Sequence – Processed with PHA-979 and Reverb

We feel that the color of this shaker sequence could be altered a bit as well. Therefore, it might be good to add some type of distortion at the end of our effect chain. In this case, we have used the Devilloc Deluxe by Soundtoys. It’s a simple but effective distortion unit. The shaker sequence now sounds a bit dirtier in solo, but this is what we aimed for.

Add some distortion to the shakers
~Shaker Sequence – Processed with PHA-979, Reverb and Distortion

Finally, let’s listen to our shaker in the context of the full mix. First the unprocessed and then the processed version.

~Full Mix – Shaker Sequence (Unprocessed)
~Full Mix – Shaker Sequence (Processed)